February 28, 2001

Contact: John Scarffe, KU Endowment Association, (785) 832-7336.

Couple pledges $1.5 million for engineering school expansion

LAWRENCE -- A retired chairman of Standard Oil of Ohio and his wife have pledged $1.5 million for construction of a multimedia facility in the School of Engineering's new building, KU Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway announced today.

Charles E. and Mary Jane Spahr of Shaker Heights, Ohio, made the pledge to the Kansas University Endowment Association, where $1 million will fund construction of the Spahr Auditorium, a 230-seat multimedia facility with cable and satellite capabilities. The remaining $500,000 will provide an endowment for maintenance of the auditorium and to upgrade technology in the future.

Constructed during the next two years at a cost of $16 million, the new School of Engineering building will add almost 50,000 square feet of useable space to the existing engineering complex at the corner of 15th Street and Naismith Drive. This facility will bring the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science into the engineering complex and provide space for a large lecture hall, several instructional and computer laboratories, the Engineering Career Services Center and the Office of the Dean.

"Charlie Spahr used his engineering education from KU to launch what became a very successful career," Chancellor Hemenway said. "We are delighted that he and Janie have remained among our most loyal alumni, establishing many funds that will continue to benefit generations of engineering students at KU. Their most recent gift will ensure that engineering students will receive instruction using the latest technology, and will continue to do so as that technology changes in the future."

Dean Carl E. Locke, Jr. commended the Spahrs for their commitment to the school.

"The Spahrs have been very generous over the years through their support of several areas in the School of Engineering," he said. "The most visible evidence of their support is the Spahr Engineering Library, which has had a very dramatic and positive impact on the quality of education the faculty offers the students. The Spahr Engineering Classroom will have a similar impact, and it will be a valuable asset for engineering students and faculty. We are grateful to the Spahrs for their generosity and thoughtfulness."

Charles Spahr, a retired chairman and chief executive officer of Standard Oil Corporation of Ohio, received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from KU in 1934. Mary Jane Spahr attended KU in 1938.

During his career with Standard Oil, Charles Spahr was instrumental in opening the Alaskan North Slope oil reserves to the United States and constructing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

In 1952, Spahr directed the U.S. Supply and Transportation Division of the Petroleum Administration for Defense. In 1965, Vice President Hubert Humphrey appointed Spahr chairman of the Plans for Progress Advisory Council. He was chairman of the American Petroleum Institute from 1975 to 1977 and in 1980 earned the Institute's Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. Following his retirement from Standard Oil in 1977, Spahr was a consultant in Cleveland. He has since retired from consulting.

The Spahrs are long-time supporters of the School of Engineering. Two years ago, the Spahr Foundation created by the couple pledged $1 million toestablish a distinguished professorship to retain top engineering faculty. Charles Spahr also chaired the committee that raised funds for the Spahr Engineering Library, which was completed in 1984. The couple created a trust to support an acquisition fund for the library and gave an additional $1 million in 1988 that helped expand the library and augmented two engineering fellowships the couple had previously established with KU Endowment. Another trust established by the Spahrs funds scholarships for students in engineering and the sciences.

Among their gifts for other areas of the University, the Spahrs contributed funds for the Bruckmiller Room at the Adams Alumni Center, which is named in honor of Mary Jane's parents, Alice Blair and Frederick W. Bruckmiller, who both graduated from KU.

Charles Spahr is a lifetime honorary member of KU's School of Engineering Advisory Board and a KU Endowment trustee. He has received the University's two highest honors: the Distinguished Service Citation for service to humanity and the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for service to KU. He also received the Distinguished Engineering Service Award from the School of Engineering.

The Spahrs are members of the School of Engineering Deans Club; the Mount Oread Society, which honors donors of $1 million or more as a part of the Chancellors Club, KU Endowment's major-donor organization; and the Elizabeth Watkins Society, which honors donors of planned gifts. The couple has five children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

The Kansas University Endowment Association is an independent, non-profit organization serving as the official fund-raising and fund-management organization for the University of Kansas. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university and one of the largest.

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